How To Learn Urdu

  1. Get a good teacher. A good teacher ought to encourage you, praise your faltering efforts to master the language, and not laugh at you too much when you confuse the word for “stomach” with the word for “buttocks”.
  2. Set aside two years of your life, at a minimum, to study it full-time.
  3. Move to Pakistan. It makes sense to learn Urdu in the country where it is spoken. On the downside, you will find yourself studying in 40 degree heat with frequent power cuts.  On the upside, you get to eat parathas.
  4. Try not to be put off by the fact that Urdu script has three different characters for “s”, four for “z”, three for “t” (two of which are minutely different), and a special character which doesn’t make a sound but which tells you to exhale slightly as you say it. When you first try to do so, you will be laughed at (see above).
  5. Also try not to be put off by the fact that when you use the wrong kind of “s” when spelling a word, people will laugh at you. It doesn’t matter that it’s pronounced the same, nor that the two letters are effectively interchangeable, you are still wrong.


 If you can deal with all of these, you will reach the majestic point at which you can easily navigate the bazaar, chat to all and sundry, and be met with the glorious compliment: “Mashallah, you speak Urdu very well!”.

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